Monday, April 21, 2014

My Joy for Teaching

"I teach high school."

"Oooo, I don't know how you do that or how you have the patience for that!" 

Anyone who teaches has likely had an interchange similar to this. However, there is usually an addition the person says to me which is, "Your just a little thing. Do the high school kids even listen to you?"

When conversations like this unfold I usually have two lines of thought:  1) I am so fortunate to have a job that I can honestly say I love and 2) I am happy this person found a job other than the teaching profession.

Here's my secret to teaching high school and loving my job...are you ready? Listen close...I'm going to whisper...

I am joy filled and grateful every day to teach our future.

Why whisper? Why not shout it from the mountain tops? Let me whisper it again in case you did not catch my words the first time:

I am joy filled and grateful every day to teach our future.

There are touch points throughout my day that speak to me.  These moments reaffirm my calling to teach.  I can stand in the middle of the room, look around and take in all 34 high school students working to achieve understanding and this fills me with joy.  When a student finally makes a break through after many struggles...this fills me with joy.  When a student challenges me and I choose to see a child in need versus a defiant child...this fills me with joy.  As students enter my room, say hello and ask how my weekend was...this fills me with joy.  As students leave my room, say good-bye and wish me a good day...this fills me with joy.  And I think...I am grateful for each of these moments.

My whispered echo is heard and felt by students every day.  I do not have to shout it.  I do not have to stand on a chair to be seen or heard.  I simply emanate my truth so that it is felt by each student.  I am neither more of a person than they are nor am I less of one; I am one with them in the process of learning and growing.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Student Choice Ideas4u

I created this digital student choice board and aligned it with Bloom's levels of understanding.  This choice board allows students to work from levels 1 to 3 demonstrating understanding of newly acquired concepts. Students are given the latitude to choose one activity from each level of understanding.

Here are the levels at a glance:
  • Level 1 (Knowledge & Memory):  these sites allow students to explore and define new concepts or vocabulary while providing practice to reinforce memorization
  • Level 2 (Comprehension & Understanding):  these sites encourage students to use their own words/voice to restate and/or model newly learned processes
  • Level 3 (Application):  these sites stretch student thinking by requiring them to make connections between new concepts and prior experiences
Feel free to try this digital choice board with your students at the front of a unit of study and watch how each student learns by choosing his/her own path.  Of course, should a student think of a way to demonstrate understanding that is not represented on the choice board, then the teacher should honor the student's choice to take a different path.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reflection for First Year Teachers

"What would you tell your first year teacher self? was the question posed by +Barbara Warren Madden @barbarawmadden to kick start the #sunchat topic and oh my was I excited for this chat! What excited me the most was the wealth of ideas that flowed openly, honestly and freely! It was both inspiring and uplifting! In looking back at the #sunchat timeline for this discussion I chose to capture the following as a reminder for our first year teacher selves.

Reflect, Relationships, Refine & Repeat

Reflection feeds my growth not only professionally, but personally as well. Reflection is at the core of why I participate in Twitter chats and write blog posts! Chatting and writing not only keep me rooted in why I do what I do (teach), but they both provide opportunities for me to stretch and grow (learn).

What I loved the most from this chat was the repeated emphasis on the power of reflection.  Here are just a few of the fabulous tweets embracing reflection:
  • Reflect & adjust, reflect & adjust, reflect get the idea. @UKmomo4 
  • Ask this Q (question), did my words & actions today attack or preserve the dignity of child? @DavidGeurin
  • It took me a long time to put aside my pain to see theirs--they developmentally can't grasp how they hurt. @SraSpanglish
  • Such a powerful & important reflection - & PLN can lift us out of our pain/struggles - new lens. @TdiShelton
  • Thankful Twitter + PLN + our struggles let us share meaningful reflections. @ashleyhhurley 
  • We must remember our calling. @the_explicator +Chris Crouch 

I am confident that each of us left this #sunchat discussion "remembering our calling."  In my darkest hour (year 6 of teaching), I turned within to remind myself why I was an educator and my inner voice replied with a simple answer, "to build relationships and learning will follow." To echo the words of @ReadWriteBlue2, "am I the only weirdo that cries because of the support here?" Well, while you may not cry, the words below will most definitely inspire our first year teacher selves:
  • Management flows thru the the connections you make with students as a whole. @1925MP
  • I am a small person (5ft nothing) teach HS I've learned intimidation, size and yelling have nothing to do with "management". @differNtiated4u
  • I'm 6', some of my students are 6'5" & outweighing me by 100lbs. Rapport & mutual respect outweigh intimidation every time. @hernick_
  • It is about the relationships you have fostered, not about the yelling. @Studentschamp
  • I have found that students will only care about learning if they believe that their teachers care about them. @NicholasFerroni
  • Try to think before you speak. No matter what is going on your words impact a life & should intend kindness. @JenaiaMorane

It was refreshing to have so many educators admit their failures, but even more impressive was how all of these educators chose to fail forward.  Here are a few things we would say to our first year selves regarding failure:
  • I tried to emulate but had to find my style. @docbobLA
  • Definitely OK to fail. I have learned so much from failure-& I always tell my students: "to err is human. @danamaloney94
  • It is funny how we learn not from our successes but from our failures. @zk0952
  • I remember trying to be "tough" guy the first year.  I failed miserably. It just wasn't my thing. @mc_bossy
  • The 1st year I was so concerned with managing that I failed miserably. Cultivating relationships was winner. @senoraCMT
  • Forgive yourself. Impact of a teacher can never be measured in one lesson/day; students learn who you are & how you care. @danamaloney94

Teaching and learning is cyclic.  What I love most about #sunchat are the repeat educators that show up weekly.  I am blessed to participate and learn from such a supportive PLN.  Gone are the days of "one and done" or "sit and get" learning.  Now are the days of seek and find in order to meet the needs of students.  When repeating the process we must remind ourselves to find humor along the way and to carefully surround ourselves by those that will lift us up.  I love the following words by Bethany Hill and Patti Jones:
  • Don't take yourself too serious! Laugh with your kids! Laugh at your mistakes! Tell them stories & be personal. @bethhill2829
  • Stay away from negative staff they are toxic, find someone who likes their job as they are infectious @shspjones
These are constant reminders to keep in the forefront of every educator's mind, be it a first year or veteran teacher! @i2Learn shared this amazing poster from @venspired +Venspired Learning reminding all of us how we should embrace teaching and learning.

*For those that do not know, #sunchat is a Twitter chat that occurs every Sunday at 8am CST.  Topics are posed "Edcamp style" (Click HERE for what that means). The moderators are @barbarawmadden, @mssackstein@JayhawkTN, @JamieArmin and sometimes me:-)